Answer:

Many supplements and natural or other alternative treatments are being promoted to prevent or treat coronavirus (COVID-19). None have been proven to work, but some have potential benefit. Here's what you need to know, and we've grouped these approaches in the following categories: 

Vitamin and minerals that can help with coronavirus if you're not getting enough

Supplements that may possibly help reduce symptoms of coronavirus

Supplements and products unlikely to help with coronavirus

Supplements and products unlikely to help with coronavirus and could be dangerous

If you are planning to try any of these supplements, be aware that ConsumerLab has tested and reviewed many of these products and it may be worthwhile to check ConsumerLab's Top Picks in each category -- based on best quality, appropriateness of strength and dosing, and value -- using the links provided below.

Of course, the most important thing you can do to avoid infection with coronavirus is to prevent exposure by following the latest recommendations of the CDC and World Health Organization regarding social distancing as well as mask use. You should also work to stay healthy by getting adequate sleep and exercise and eating a healthful diet that includes adequate (but not excessive) intakes of essential nutrients, such as vitamins C and D, as described below. In addition, take steps to control hypertension and blood sugar fluctuations with diabetes, as these conditions are associated with more severe disease if infected. These steps may also help you maintain a healthy weight, which is important because obesity has been associated with an increased risk of requiring intubation or dying among people hospitalized with COVID-19, particularly those under 65 years of age. Risk was 60% greater among those with severe obesity (BMI > 34.9 kg/m2) compared to patients of normal weight (BMI of 18.5 to 24.9 kg/m2) (Anderson, Annals Int Med 2020).

For people who have had COVID-19 and experience a loss of smell (a common symptom) lasting for longer than two weeks, taking omega-3 fatty acids in addition to standard treatments may be helpful, according to an expert panel of ear, nose and throat physicians in the United Kingdom. The panel did not find sufficient evidence for taking vitamin A drops or alpha lipoic acid to treat persistent loss of smell (Hopkins, Clin Otolaryngol 2020).



Vitamin and minerals that can help with coronavirus if you're not getting enough

Vitamin D

Vitamin D supplements, taken daily in moderate doses, may help to reduce the risk of respiratory infections and viruses such as influenza A in children and adults who are deficient (< 20 ng/mL) or severely deficient (< 10 ng/mL) in vitamin D.

Preliminary studies suggest that people with lower levels of vitamin D are more likely to test positive for the coronavirus, have more severe symptoms, and may have a higher risk of dying from COVID-19. Vitamin D may reduce the need for intensive care. (See the COVID-19 section of the Vitamin D Supplements Review for details).

You can maintain an adequate blood level of vitamin D (20 to 30 ng/mL -- although best not to exceed 39 ng/mL) by getting proper sun exposure (at least three times a week for about 30 minutes exposing your hands, arms, legs, and face), consuming vitamin D-fortified products (such as most milks, certain other dairy foods and some plant-based milks), or taking a vitamin D supplement is a good, safe, preventative measure for protecting against respiratory infections in general. To maintain healthy levels, only 400 to 800 IU (15 to 20 mcg) of vitamin D is required daily, but, to boost low levels, higher doses, such as 2,000 IU daily, are used and are generally safe. Very large doses, which have been taken periodically (such as 100,000 IU taken monthly) may not be as helpful and could even increase the risk of respiratory infections in some people.

A small study among older men and women in Singapore with COVID-19 found that those who were started on a combination of vitamin D, magnesium and vitamin B12 supplements within one day of hospitalization were much less likely to require oxygen therapy and other intensive care support than those not given the supplements.

There are many vitamin D supplements on the market. ConsumerLab has tested a wide variety and has published its Top Picks in its Vitamin D Supplements Review, which contains additional information about using vitamin D, as well as its benefits, dosing, and potential side effects.

Zinc (and Selenium) Pills and Liquids

A study in Spain among people hospitalized with COVID-19 found that having very low blood levels of zinc was associated with more severe disease and higher mortality rates.

Supplementing with zinc (such as with regular tablets) would not benefit most people unless they are deficient in zinc, which is more common in elderly people due to reduced zinc absorption. In such people, supplementing with zinc (e.g. 20 mg per day) may improve the chance of avoiding respiratory tract infection, as suggested by a study of elderly people in nursing facilities in France. (People in that study were also deficient in selenium -- which is uncommon in the U.S. -- and were given 100 mcg per day, which is about twice the daily requirement. There is also some evidence, from a study in Germany, that selenium deficiency is common in people with COVID-19 and more common among those who die from the disease than among those who recover). Others who may be low in zinc include vegetarians and people taking certain medications, such as those that reduce stomach acid and ACE inhibitors, on a long-term basis. The daily requirement for zinc varies by age, but, for adults, is about 11 mg.

If you are deficient in zinc, you might consider increasing intake of zinc-containing foods or taking a zinc pill (also covered in the Zinc Review) or, as discussed below, a zinc-containing multivitamin. ConsumerLab.com has tested many zinc supplements and has published its Top Picks in its Zinc Review, which contains additional information about using zinc, zinc lozenges, zinc benefits, dosing, and potential side effects.

Zinc Lozenges

Zinc has become one of the most popular suggestions for reducing symptoms of coronavirus. Notably, an email written by a pathologist, Dr. James Robb, that recommends using zinc lozenges such as Cold-Eeze to ward off the virus, along with other tips, has gone viral.

Although there is no direct evidence at this time to suggest that using zinc lozenges can prevent or treat COVID-19 in people, zinc does have anti-viral properties and was shown in a laboratory study to inhibit the replication of coronaviruses in cells (te Velthuis, PLoS Pathog 2010). One physician has reported that four people with apparent COVID-19 reported significant improvements in symptoms within 24 hours of taking various zinc lozenges, but this was not a controlled clinical study (Finzi, Int J Infect Dis 2020).

Zinc lozenges or other orally dissolving zinc formulas containing certain forms of zinc have been shown to reduce the severity and duration of colds, which are caused by viruses. They appear to do this by acting directly in the throat, which is why the timing and duration of use matters when treating colds with zinc. The connection with coronavirus and zinc lozenges is that the major cause of illness and death among people who are symptomatic with COVID-19 is respiratory disease and it is in the upper airway that zinc lozenges can have some activity. However, zinc from lozenges has not been shown to directly help with lower respiratory illness (i.e., in the lungs), which is of greatest concern in COVID-19, because the dissolved zinc leaves the respiratory system after the throat, moving to the gastrointestinal system.

Be aware that typical daily doses of zinc provided by zinc lozenges generally exceed tolerable upper limits for zinc, and for this reason, they should not be used for longer than about a week. Excessive intake of zinc can cause copper deficiency. Zinc can impair the absorption of antibiotics, and use of zinc nasal gels or swabs has been linked to temporary or permanent loss of smell.

There are several versions of Cold-Eeze and there are many other zinc-containing lozenges sold. ConsumerLab.com has tested many of these in its Zinc Supplements and Lozenges Review where it found that they often do not provide the type, amount, formulation, and recommended dosing shown to be effective. Among those that do, ConsumerLab has chosen Top Picks for zinc lozenges.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is vital to the function of leukocytes (white blood cells that help to fight infections) and overall immune system health. Vitamin C is also important for iron absorption, and being deficient in iron can make you more vulnerable to infections in general. The recommended daily intake of vitamin C for adults from the diet and/or supplements is 75 to 120 mg. It is easy to get this amount and most people do. You can get about 80 to 90 mg from just a cup of orange juice or sliced orange, or even more from a cup of sweet peppers, tomato juice, or cut kiwi fruit.

Taking high-dose vitamin C (e.g., 500 mg twice daily) before getting a cold may slightly reduce the severity and duration of a cold but won't stop one from getting a cold. The evidence is inconclusive as to whether taking vitamin C will help after cold symptoms develop.

There is no evidence that getting more than the daily requirement of vitamin C can protect people from infection from coronavirus. This strategy is being promoted on various websites and in videos on YouTube. For example, one video recommended taking a daily dose of 5,000 mg of vitamin C. It has since been removed for violating YouTube's community guidelines (likely as part of an effort by YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and other social media sites to eliminate misinformation about COVID-19 online, although new posts and promotions for fake coronavirus cures and scams seem to appear daily).

Higher intakes of vitamin C may potentially help some, but not all, people who are critically ill with COVID-19 and on ventilators. A review of several studies performed prior to the emergence of COVID-19 found a dose of 1,000 to 6,000 mg of vitamin C daily (intravenously or by mouth) shortened the time on ventilation by about 25% for people who required ventilation for over 10 hours, but it appeared to be less helpful for those on ventilators for shorter periods (Hemila J Intens Care 2020). However, a study among critically ill people with COVID-19 infection who were also in shock found that the mortality rate was still very high (80%) despite treatment with 3 grams of vitamin C daily for three to five days, in addition to standard treatment (Chaudhary, Acute Crit Care 2020).

Be aware that there are side effects and risks associated with taking high doses of vitamin C. People sometimes assume there is no harm in taking large doses because vitamin C is water-soluble (i.e. excess vitamin C is excreted from the body), but this is not the case. In addition to causing gastric distress and diarrhea, high doses of vitamin C (over 500 mg per day) over the long-term may increase the risk of cataracts. High-dose vitamin C can also reduce the effectiveness of certain medications and interfere with certain blood tests.

There are many vitamin C supplements on the market. ConsumerLab has tested many of these and has found several to contain almost 50% more vitamin C than listed on the label (potentially increasing the risk of adverse effects). ConsumerLab has published its Top Picks in its Vitamin C Supplements Review, which contains additional information about using vitamin C, its benefits, dosing, and potential side effects.

Potassium

Potassium will not prevent coronavirus infection but low potassium levels have been noted in people hospitalized with COVID-19. Doctors in China reported that among a group of 175 patients hospitalized with COVID-19, 69 (39%) had hypokalemia (low potassium in the blood) and another 39 (22%) had severe hypokalemia. Supplementing with about 3 grams of potassium daily helped correct these deficiencies in most patients.

Hypokalemia can cause heart dysfunction, one of the major problems seen in COVID-19. High levels of markers of heart muscle damage were associated with more severe hypokalemia. The presence of underlying disease, particularly hypertension, was associated with the severity of hypokalemia. On the other hand, there was no association between hypokalemia and common upper respiratory symptoms, such as cough and runny nose (i.e., if those are your only symptoms, you probably don't have to worry about your potassium level.) (Chen, preprint in medRxiv 2020 -- Not yet peer-reviewed). A study of 290 hospitalized patients with confirmed COVID-19 in Italy found that although hypokalemia was common, it tended to be mild and was treatable with oral potassium supplements. It was not associated with poor outcomes or mortality (Alfano, preprint in medRxiv 2020 -- Not yet peer-reviewed).

The apparent reason for hypokalemia in COVID-19 is that the point of entry into cells for the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 is an enzyme on cell surfaces called angiotensin I converting enzyme 2 (ACE2). ACE2 is found on many types of cells, including those in the lungs, intestines, kidneys, and heart. It normally helps regulate blood pressure through effects on sodium and potassium. The virus inactivates ACE2, leading to excretion of potassium. This explanation was further supported by the finding of excess potassium in the urine of patients with hypokalemia, indicating that the potassium loss is mainly through the kidneys (from potassium it normally filters from the blood) as opposed to diarrhea -- which is also common in COVID-19.

Normally, potassium is easily obtained from foods, such as beans, squash, potatoes, and deficiency is uncommon other than in people taking certain drugs or with conditions affecting the kidneys or gut. For treating deficiency, supplements are commonly used. Individuals taking potassium-sparing diuretics (such as spironolactone), ACE inhibitors (such as captopril), or trimethoprim/sulfamethoxazole should not take potassium supplements without medical supervision as dangerous levels of potassium may develop. [Note: There are hypothetical concerns that taking prescription ACE-inhibitors and angiotensin receptor-blockers (ARBs) may increase ACE2 on cell surfaces, potentially increasing the risk of developing severe COVID-19 (Fang, Lancet 2020; Diaz, J Trav Med 2020) but there are also cautions not to stop taking such medications as they not only control high blood pressure but may helpful in treating COVID-19 (Danser, Hypertension 2020; de Simone, Eur Soc Cardio 2020).]

ConsumerLab.com has tested the quality of a variety of potassium supplements. Its results and Top Picks are found in the Potassium Supplements Review, which includes additional information about what potassium does, how it is used, and potential side effects.


Supplements that may possibly help reduce symptoms of coronavirus

Astragalus

Astragalus (or Huang qi) has been promoted on some websites to help protect against COVID-19. Astragalus is an herb that has traditionally been used in Chinese medicine to strengthen the immune system and to treat colds, among many other uses. It may be sold as a root powder, extract or tea, as a single ingredient or as part of an "immune boosting" formula.

Laboratory and animal studies suggest polysaccharides, astragalosides and other compounds in astragalus increase the production of white blood cells, particularly T cells and macrophages, and other cells important for immune system function (Block, Integr Cancer Ther 2003). It has also been shown to have anti-inflammatory and anti-viral effects, including activity against a particular type of coronavirus that commonly infects poultry (Jin, Int J Biol Macromol 2014; Zhang, Microb Pathog 2018). In China, astragalus, alone and in combination with other herbs, has been suggested to potentially help prevent COVID-19 infections (Yang, Int J Biol Sci 2020).

However, there is no clinical evidence at this time that astragalus can prevent or treat coronavirus infections in people.

Many of the studies of astragalus supplementation in people have been conducted in China, and in some cases, complete translations of these studies, or details about the formulations used, are not available. An observational study of 1,000 people in China reported that astragalus given orally, or as a nasal spray, was associated with reduced the incidence and duration of colds, but the exact preparation and dosage of astragalus is not known — nor do observational studies prove a cause-and-effect relationship (Chang, Pharmacology and Applications of Chinese Materia Medica 1987). A very small study (14 individuals in China) found that astragalus extract (equivalent to 8 grams of root powder per day) increased the production of interferon and leukocytes (which typically increase in response to exposure to viruses) compared to placebo (Hou, Zhonghua Weisheng Wuxue Hemian Yixue Zazhi 1981). There appears to be insufficient research to determine whether astragalus can help prevent viral respiratory tract infections in children (Su, Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2016).

Some researchers have advised that a daily dose of 4 to 7 grams of root powder may be the best dosage for increasing macrophage activity while higher dosages (28 grams or more per day) may suppress the immune system.

In patients with viral myocarditis (inflammation of the heart), astragalus injections combined with standard treatment showed modest improvements in recovery in adults, but these injections showed no significant reduction in the number of patients who died from cardiac failure (Lui, Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2013).

Due to its immune-stimulating effects, people with autoimmune disease and those taking immunosuppressant drugs (such as after organ transplantation) should not take astragalus. Astragalus polysaccharides may stimulate histamine release, which could increase allergic reactions in some people (Upton, Astragalus Root Monograph American Herbal Pharmacopoeia 1999). With regard to COVID-19, an immune-stimulating effect may be helpful in fighting infection, but it could, theoretically, accelerate the lower respiratory "cytokine storm" believed by some to ravage the lungs in severe cases, although the existence of such a "cytokine storm" in COVID-19 has been questioned (Kox, JAMA 2020). In fact, a drug (tocilizumab) that inhibits one of the major cytokines, IL-6, did not reduce death rates in people with severe COVID-19 (Gupta, JAMA Intern Med 2020; Stone, N Engl J Med 2020).

This herb may also lower blood pressure, and so should be used with caution in people with low blood pressure and those taking blood pressure-lowering medications. Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should not take astragalus. The development of liver and kidney cysts associated with drinking astragalus tea and taking astragalus powder has been reported in one woman in China (Tond, J Clin Pharm Ther 2014).

Echinacea

Studies in laboratories (but not in people) have shown that certain species of echinacea may inhibit coronaviruses. However, there is no evidence at this time that taking this or any other echinacea product can prevent or treat coronavirus infections in people.

A laboratory study that has not yet been peer-reviewed or published found that a particular branded form of echinacea inhibited specific coronaviruses, including (HCoV) 229E, MERS- and SARS-CoVs, and the researchers suggested it could potentially have a similar effect on SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, although it was not tested. The study was funded by a distributor of the product and authored, in part, by an employee of the manufacturer. Clinical trials of echinacea suggest a possible modest benefit for other types of viral respiratory infections, like colds, although results have been mixed, at best. In addition, as shown in tests by ConsumerLab, the amounts of potentially beneficial compounds vary widely across products.

ConsumerLab has tested and reviewed many echinacea supplements on the market (including the product noted above for its inhibition of viruses in a laboratory). You can find its reviews and Top Picks in its Echinacea Supplements Review, which contains additional information about using echinacea, its benefits, dosing, and potential drug interactions and side effects.

Elderberry

Elderberry extract has been shown in laboratory studies to inhibit the replication and hemagglutination of human flu viruses, including certain strains of Influenza A and B, and H1N1. Small, preliminary trials in people with the flu suggest that, taken within the first day or so of experiencing symptoms, elderberry shortens the duration of the flu, but more studies are needed to corroborate this. There is no evidence that elderberry extract can prevent COVID-19 or reduce symptoms in people who have been infected.

Concern has been raised on some websites about the potential for elderberry extract to cause a cytokine storm in reaction to a COVID-19 infection. A cytokine storm is an "overreaction" to infection in the body, in which the immune system overproduces the cytokines and immune system cells that help to fight infection. This overreaction is very damaging, particularly to the lungs, and has been suspected by some to play a role in some cases of severe COVID-19 (Mehta, Lancet 2020).

The concern with elderberry is based on a small study using blood from 12 healthy individuals that showed a particular elderberry extract increased levels of inflammatory cytokines in a dose-dependent manner (i.e. a higher dose of extract resulted in higher levels of cytokines). However, another study found an elderberry tincture decreased levels of inflammatory cytokines. There do not appear to be studies on the effects of elderberry extract on cytokine levels in people with severe respiratory infections, and there are no published reports of elderberry extract being associated with, or suspected of causing or worsening, a cytokine storm in people. Furthermore, the link between "cytokine storm" and COVID-19 severity has been disputed by some research.

ConsumerLab's tests of elderberry extracts and supplements found that the amounts of elderberry compounds in marketed products ranged more than 2,000-fold — from as little as 0.03 mg to 69.3 mg per suggested serving, although due to lack of research, it's not clear what amount, if any, would be effective. 

For people who do choose to try elderberry extract, it's helpful to know that it appears to be generally well-tolerated. However, people who are allergic to grass pollen may have allergic reactions to elderberry. Never consume raw elderberries, as these contain toxic compounds that can cause nausea, vomiting, dizziness and diarrhea.

Based on its tests and review, ConsumerLab has published its Top Pick in its Elderberry Supplements Review, which contains additional information about using elderberry, its benefits, dosing, and potential side effects.

Fish Oil

The British Rhinological Society's Guidelines for the Management of New Onset Loss of Sense of Smell During the COVID-19 Pandemic advises that that fish oil supplementation (2,000 mg of omega-3 fatty acids/day) may be beneficial when used in addition to standard treatment (olfactory training, oral steroids and steroid rinses) (Hopkins, Clin Otolaryngol 2020). This position is not based on a clinical trial of fish oil in COVID-19 patients but on limited animal and human research suggesting that omega-3 fatty acids may be beneficial for loss of smell due to olfactory nerve damage, as discussed the Fish Oil Supplements Review, which includes ConsumerLab's tests and reviews of products and its Top Picks for fish oil.

Probiotics

Preliminary evidence from laboratory and animal studies suggest that some probiotics -- particularly lactic-acid producing bacteria -- can have anti-viral activity, including activity against another coronavirus, TGEV, as discussed in our Probiotic Supplements Review. There is, however, no clinical evidence that a probiotic helps prevent or treat COVID-19. A placebo-controlled trial to evaluate the effects of a commercially available probiotic on transmission of the COVID-19 virus has been announced but results are not expected until 2022 (Clinicaltrials.gov 2020).

ConsumerLab has tested the quality of a wide variety of probiotics, including many providing lactic-acid producing bacteria, and has selected Top Picks for various other clinical uses.

Quercetin

Quercetin and its major metabolites, such as quercetin 3-beta-O-d-glucoside (Q3G, also called isoquercetin), have been found in laboratory studies to inhibit a wide variety of viruses, including severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus (SARS-CoV), which is related to COVID-19). For example, one of these studies showed that when mice were injected with high doses of Q3G before being infected with a lethal dose of the Ebola virus, they survived Ebola infection, while none of the mice that did not receive Q3G survived. According to preliminary research, quercetin appears to work by preventing viruses from entering cells, thereby reducing "viral load." A clinical trial that will investigate the use of oral quercetin in patients with COVID-19 has been planned, or may already be underway, in China. Details about the exact form (quercetin or 3-beta-O-d-glucoside) and dose of the formula (produced by Swiss drug manufacturer, Quercegen Pharmaceuticals) do not appear to have been made public, but in a February 2020 interview posted online by the Canadian Broadcasting Company (CBC News), researcher Michel Chrétien stated he hopes to have preliminary results in the upcoming months. However, he cautioned that he does not want to give "false hope" about the potential benefits of quercetin until more research is conducted. 

Until more is known, it's not clear if taking isoquercetin or quercetin supplements can help prevent or treat COVID-19 or what dosage would be effective.

ConsumerLab's tests of popular quercetin supplements have found that some products contain less quercetin than listed on the label. Based on its tests and review, ConsumerLab has published its Top Picks in its Quercetin Supplements Review, which contains additional information about using quercetin, its benefits, dosing, potential side effects, and interactions with a variety of drugs including rosuvastatin (Crestor), atorvastatin (Lipitor) and pravastatin (Pravachol).

Turmeric and Curcumin

Turmeric and curcumin (a major constituent of turmeric) are best known for their modest anti-inflammatory effects. Curcumin has also been shown to inhibit certain viruses in laboratory studies, including a study published online (but not in a peer-reviewed journal) suggesting that curcumin may inhibit the virus that causes COVID-19. In animal studies, curcumin injections have been shown to protect the lungs from injury and infection, including viral-induced acute respiratory distress syndrome, possibly by reducing inflammatory cytokines and other mechanisms. However, there are no studies in people showing that turmeric or curcumin supplements can prevent or reduce the symptoms of viral infections such as colds, the flu, or COVID-19.

The maker of an intravenous form of liposomal curcumin indicated in March 2020 that it is "exploring opportunities" to utilize its product in patients with COVID-19. This formula has been investigated in at least one clinical trial in patients with advanced metastatic cancer, but be aware that some intravenous turmeric treatments have been associated with serious side effects.

ConsumerLab.com's tests of popular turmeric and curcumin supplements have found that not all products contain the amount of curcumin claimed on the label, and its tests of turmeric spices show significant variability in their curcumin content. ConsumerLab has published the results of its tests, as well as its Top Picks among turmeric and curcumin supplements and Top Pick for turmeric spice, in its Turmeric and Curcumin Supplements and Spices Review.

Be aware that only a small percentage of curcumin taken orally is absorbed. Taking these supplements with food can improve absorption, and there are a number of formulations on the market to increase the bioavailability of curcumin from supplements. Turmeric and curcumin, as well as black pepper extract -- a type of bioavailability enhancer, can interact with many medications.


Supplements and products unlikely to help with coronavirus

Coconut Oil

Two researchers have highlighted preliminary research on the anti-viral effects of lauric acid, found in coconut oil, and the metabolite of lauric acid — monolaurin. They have proposed a clinical trial using virgin coconut oil (3 tablespoons daily), monolaurin (800 mg daily), and/or monocaprin (800 mg daily) in patients with COVID-19. Their suggestion was published on the Integrated Chemists of the Philippines website. They note that coconut oil, lauric acid, and monolaurin have been used to help prevent viruses in farm animals, and two small trials in people with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) given coconut oil showed some improvements in immune system blood cell counts. However, there is no evidence to date that consuming coconut oil can prevent or treat coronavirus infections in people.

There are many coconut oils on the market and ConsumerLab has tested several popular brands. Note that large amounts of lauric acid were found only in coconut oils that have not been refined, such as several virgin and extra virgin coconut oils, while refined coconut oils do not contain much lauric acid, and MCT oils contain virtually no lauric acid (they are mainly caprylic and/or capric acids).ConsumerLab has published its Top Picks for virgin and extra virgin coconut oils in its Coconut and MCT Oils Review showing, among other things, their lauric acid content and providing additional information about using coconut oil as well its benefits, dosing, and potential side effects. Monolaurin and monocaprin are sold as supplements but, to date, have not been tested by ConsumerLab.

Garlic

Garlic has been shown in laboratory studies to inhibit certain flu and cold viruses, and one clinical trial suggests garlic supplements may help to prevent colds. Studies by one laboratory indicate that sulfur compounds in garlic essential oil (allyl disulfide and allyl trisulfide) interact with ACE2 protein through which the coronavirus enters human cells (Thuy, ACS Omega 2020). However, there is no current evidence that eating garlic or taking a garlic supplement can help prevent or treat COVID-19, as noted on the World Health Organization's Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) Myth busters website.

There are many garlic supplements on the market. ConsumerLab has tested many of these and has published its Top Picks in its Garlic Supplements & Spices Review, which contains additional information about using garlic, its benefits, dosing, and potential side effects.

Lysine

Preliminary studies suggest that lysine has immune stimulating and antiviral properties. Some websites have recommended supplementing with lysine to fight COVID-19. However, as explained in ConsumerLab's Lysine Supplements Review, there is no evidence at this time to suggest taking lysine or a related lysine-containing supplement can help prevent or treat COVID-19.

More information about lysine, including the results of ConsumerLab's tests and comparisons of lysine supplements can be found in the Lysine Supplements Review. The review also explains what to look for on lysine labels and whether its worth paying more for "free form" lysine, and discusses foods sources of lysine, and potential concerns and side effects of lysine.

Melatonin

Melatonin is a hormone that helps regulate sleep and can trigger sleep in people with sleep disorders. Supplementing with melatonin has also been suggested as a potential means of preventing COVID-19. A study of patients tested for COVID-19 found that those who reported taking melatonin were less likely to test positive, but this does not prove that taking melatonin supplements can prevent COVID-19 (Jehi, Chest 2020). A clinical study is underway in Spain to test this. Another study found that COVID-19 patients given melatonin after intubation had a better average survival rate than those not given melatonin, although the study was not placebo-controlled (Ramlall, medRxiv 2020 -- preprint).

Rationale for use of melatonin in COVID-19 appears to stem from the fact that it can affect immune responses. Experiments in mice, for example, have shown melatonin to increase levels of certain cytokines (immune-regulating molecules) in those infected with various viruses and to reduce virus-related mortality, but this benefit has yet to be demonstrated in human clinical trials — and, theoretically, there could be a risk to increasing cytokines during COVID-19. Melatonin may also indirectly cause fewer ACE2 receptors to be available for the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus to attach to cells in the body.

ConsumerLab has tested the quality of a wide variety of melatonin supplements on the market and has published its Top Picks in its Melatonin Supplements Review, which contains additional information about using melatonin, including potential side effects. Typical dosage for sleep is 0.3 mg to 3 mg about 30 to 60 minutes before bedtime.

NAC (N-acetyl cysteine)

NAC (N-acetyl cysteine) is a synthetically modified form of the amino acid cysteine (cysteine occurs naturally in foods, whereas NAC does not). In the body, NAC is converted to the antioxidant glutathione. There is very preliminary evidence that NAC may improve certain blood markers of immune system health but there is not sufficient evidence to suggest that NAC supplementation improves the immune system to the extent that it will reduce the occurrence of illness, nor prevent coronavirus infection. A clinical study using 600 mg of NAC taken twice daily during flu season found that it did not prevent infection but fewer infected people were symptomatic. Evidence is weak for its purported ability to thin mucus during infections like colds.

ConsumerLab.com has tested and reviewed a variety of NAC supplements on the market and it has published its Top Pick in its NAC Supplements Review, which contains additional information about using NAC, its benefits, dosing, and potential side effects.

Olive Leaf Extract

Olive leaf extract is being promoted by some websites as a natural remedy to help fight COVID-19. Compounds in olive leaves, such as oleuropein and hydroxytyrosol, have been shown in laboratory studies to inhibit certain disease-causing bacteria and viruses. For example, in cells, oleuropein has been shown to inhibit respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and parainfluenza type 3 virus (Para 3), but not herpes simplex type 1 virus (HSV-1), influenza type A virus (Chem Pharm Bull (Tokyo) 2001). Oleuropein can also break down into other compounds, such as calcium elenolate, which has been shown in laboratory studies to inhibit viruses such as influenza A (Renis, Antimicrob Agents Chemother (Bethesda) 1969), although some olive leaf extracts may produce little to no calcium elenolate (Poudyal, J Clin Nutr 2010). Olive leaf extract has also been shown in animal and human studies to have anti-inflammatory effects, including reducing inflammatory cytokines (Burja, Front Cardiovasc Med 2019).

However, there does not appear to be much research on the effect of olive leaf extract on viral disease in people. In fact, a study among healthy high school athletes in New Zealand found that taking olive leaf extract daily (as one tablet providing the equivalent of 20 g of olive leaf, containing 100 mg oleuropein) for about two months (during competition season) did not reduce the incidence of colds or symptoms of upper respiratory infections (sore throat, cough, sneezing) compared to placebo (Somerville, Nutrients 2019).

Be aware that olive leaf extract may lower blood pressure and should be used with caution by people with low blood pressure or those taking blood pressure lowering medications (Cherif, J Pharm Belg 1996). It may also have a blood thinning effect, and should be used in caution in people taking blood-thinning medication (Singh, Nutr Metab Cardiovasc Dis 2008). Olive leaf extract supplements may cause mild side effects such as upset stomach and headache (Somerville, Nutrients 2019).

[Note: Extra virgin and virgin olive oils may contain some oleuropein, but typically in much smaller concentrations than in olive leaves, and non-virgin olive oil typically contains no oleuropein (Barbaro, Int J Mol Sci 2014).

Vitamin K

A blood marker of low vitamin K levels, known as Dp-ucMGP, has been associated with having COVID-19 and unfavorable outcomes from the disease. However, there is currently no direct evidence that supplementation with vitamin K can prevent or treat COVID-19. More details are found in the What It Does section of ConsumerLab.com's Vitamin K Supplements Review. The Review also includes ConsumerLab's Top Picks for vitamin K supplements, and information about other benefits of vitamin K, dosing, and potential side effects.


Supplements and products unlikely to help with coronavirus and could be dangerous

Apple Cider Vinegar

Some social media postings claim that gargling with vinegar can eliminate the coronavirus in the throat before it reaches the lungs. While all varieties of vinegar, including apple cider vinegar, contain acetic acid, which has antibacterial and antiviral properties, there is no evidence that gargling with vinegar is useful for preventing or treating colds, sore throats, or COVID-19. There is also concern about the safety of using vinegar this way. Regular consumption of apple cider vinegar can cause tooth enamel loss and low blood levels of potassium.

Vinegars may be used to clean surfaces but are not as effective a disinfectant as bleach and may take as long as 30 minutes sitting on a surface, particularly a porous one, to be effective. Vinegar and acetic acid have been shown to strongly inactivate SARS-Cov-2 in studies on animal cells but this required much more time than has been shown with other disinfectants. Vinegar is not listed on the EPA's current list of products that meet the agency's criteria for disinfectants for the virus. Do not combine vinegar with bleach or hydrogen peroxide, as this can create toxic vapors.

ConsumerLab has tested popular apple cider vinegars and apple cider vinegar pills (some of which were found to contain extremely high and potentially unsafe concentrations of acetic acid). You can see the results and ConsumerLab's Top Picks in the Apple Cider Vinegar Review, which includes information about the evidence for other uses of apple cider vinegar, such as lowering blood sugar, improving digestion, "balancing pH," and helping with weight loss, as well as dosage and safety.

CBD

CBD (cannabidiol) has been heavily promoted to prevent the coronavirus. For example, former NFL player Kyle Turley, who owns a line of CBD products, has tweeted that CBD can prevent and cure the coronavirus, and scammers have been sending text messages promoting CBD for the virus.

While CBD has been shown to inhibit certain viruses in laboratory studies, there is no evidence that it can prevent or treat COVID-19 in people. In a recently published review, researchers cited the lack of clinical evidence for CBD's antiviral effects and cautioned "CBD sellers should stop promoting claims that are not backed by scientific evidence." (Tagne, Cannabis Cannabinoid Res 2020).

In fact, animal studies generally indicate that CBD dampens the immune system, and a study among children and young adults given large amounts of CBD to study its anti-seizure effects found that those given CBD reported more upper respiratory infections than those given placebo (11% vs. 8%, respectively). Although, theoretically, dampening the immune response could dampen the "cytokine storm" thought by some to occur in severe COVID-19, it is far too early to know if this would be the case or whether it might make the infection worse, especially since the link between "cytokine storm" and COVID-19 severity has been disputed by some research.

CBD may be helpful for anxiety and anxiety-related sleep disorders, making it useful for people struggling with anxiety due to the current pandemic. However, be aware that in a small percentage of individuals, CBD may worsen anxiety and insomnia.

ConsumerLab has tested many popular CBD supplements on the market, some of which contained much less, or much more CBD than listed on the label. It also tested products to see how much, if any, THC they contained. The results, including ConsumerLab's Top Picks for CBD appear in the CBD & Hemp Extracts, Supplements, Lotions and Balms Review, which includes tests of supplements for people and pets, as well as topical products. The Review also discusses the evidence for other uses for CBD, such as for pain, sleep, glaucoma and seizures and movement disorders, as well as dosage, side effects and potential drug interactions.

Colloidal Silver

Colloidal silver (a solution with silver particles) has antiseptic (disinfectant) activity on surfaces and has been promoted by several companies to prevent or treat coronavirus. However ingesting colloidal silver has not been shown to prevent or treat coronavirus, and there are serious potential risks.

See the FDA and FTC's joint warning to companies selling colloidal silver and other products to treat coronavirus. The agencies emphasized "There currently are no vaccines, pills, potions, lotions, lozenges or other prescription or over-the-counter products available to treat or cure coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19)."

Essential Oils

Essential oils from plants such as eucalyptus, lavender, and tea tree have been shown in laboratory studies to have antiviral and/or other antimicrobial effects, as discussed below, but none have been shown to prevent or treat COVID-19 or other diseases caused by coronaviruses. The FDA has recently sent warnings to several companies promoting essential oils for use in treating COVID-19. Be aware that many essential oils can irritate the skin and eyes and cause allergic reactions when used topically. Some essential oils can have serious adverse effects if inhaled or cause severe toxicity if ingested.

Eucalyptus oil has been shown in laboratory studies to inhibit certain viruses, including HSV-1, influenza A (H1N1), and the mumps virus (Winska, Molecules 2019). A limited number of small clinical trials have suggested that capsules containing cineole, a main constituent of eucalyptus oil, may be helpful for colds, viral sinusitis or asthma (Kehrl, The Laryngoscope 2004; Worth, J Asthma 2012; Fischer, Cough 2013), but research has been limited due to side effects (i.e., nausea, heartburn, diarrhea and skin rash) and safety concerns (excessive doses can be fatal).

Nevertheless, a product containing a blend of eucalyptus, orange, lemon and myrtle essential oils that have been double-distilled for purity (Myrtol) has been shown in several small placebo-controlled clinical trials to reduce symptoms of chronic and acute sinusitis and bronchitis with a low incidence of side effects, although one case of anaphylactic shock due to allergic reaction to an ingredient in the capsule has been reported (Paparoupa, Pharmacogn Rev 2016).

Inhaling eucalyptus oil vapors is a common home remedy for colds and sinus infections. However, be aware that this can exacerbate asthma in some people (American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology). Inhaling eucalyptus, as well as use of eucalyptus nasal drops and using eucalyptus on the skin has been reported to cause seizures in people without a history of seizures, as well as breakthrough seizures in people with well-controlled seizures (Mathew, Epilepsia Open 2017).

Lavender oil has been shown in laboratory studies to inhibit bacteria known to cause respiratory infections and the virus HSV-1 (Roller, J Altern Complement Med 2009; Winska, Molecules 2019). However, there do not appear to be any clinical studies showing lavender oil to prevent or treat respiratory infections.

Be aware that, taken orally, lavender oils and tinctures can cause stomach upset, nausea and headache (Schlafke, Phyomedicine 2010; Akhondzadeh, Prog Neuropsychopharmacol Biol Psychiatry 2003). Topical use of products containing lavender, and inhalation of lavender from diffusers has been associated with abnormal breast growth in children.

Oregano oil has been shown in laboratory studies to have antibacterial and antiviral effects. For example, it was shown to inhibit the norovirus (a virus that causes colds) in mouse cells (Gilling, J Appl Microbiol 2014). However, there do not appear to be any studies on the effects of oregano oil to prevent or treat respiratory infections in people.

In one small, company-funded study in people with parasitic intestinal infections, oregano oil tablets (200 mg of emulsified oregano oil) taken three times daily for six weeks reduced or eliminated the presence of parasites in stool in most of the participants. However, the study did not include a placebo or a control group, so it does not prove that the treatment worked (Force, Phytother Res 2000).

Be aware that non-emulsified oregano oil can irritate the lining of the digestive tract, and rarely, allergic reactions to oral consumption of oregano have been reported (Force, Phytother Res 2000; Benito, Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol 1996).

Tea Tree oil has been shown in laboratory studies to inhibit a variety of bacteria such as S. aureus and E. coli, certain fungi, and the virus that causes cold sores (HSV-1) (Carson, Clin Microbiol Rev 2006). Used topically, tea tree oil has been shown to be helpful in treating acne and athlete's foot. However, be aware that when applied to the skin, tea tree oil can cause allergic reactions, rash and inflammation in some people.

Inhaling tea tree oil, or adding the oil to vaporizers, is sometimes recommended to help clear the sinuses or reduce congestion from colds and respiratory infections, but there is no direct evidence this would help in people with COVID-19.

Preliminary laboratory research using tea tree oils showed some success in killing certain bacteria within 10 to 60 minutes, but the study did not measure its effects against viruses (May, J Antimicrob Chemother 2000). There is no evidence at this time that tea tree oil is an effective disinfectant or hand sanitizer to protect against SARS-CoV-2.

Tea tree oil is poisonous if swallowed. It should never be taken orally. Tea tree oil, even in small quantities, can be harmful and even fatal to dogs and cats, so do not leave tea tree oil on surfaces that pets can access (Khan, J Am Vet Med Assoc 2014).

Other Safety Concerns with Essential Oils

Essential oils should never be taken orally by infants, children, or women who are pregnant or breastfeeding. Essential oils from eucalyptus, rosemary, fennel, sage, hyssop, wormwood, camphor, spike lavender and possibly other plants should not be used by people with a seizure disorder (Epilepsy Society of the UK 2019).

The ASPCA warns against the use of any essential oil diffuser if you have pet birds, as their respiratory tracts are extrememly sensitive and this could cause serious adverse effects.

See information about peppermint oil.

Miracle Mineral Solution (Sodium Chlorite) and Chlorine Dioxide Kits

Miracle Mineral Solution (which contains 28% sodium chlorite in distilled water) and chlorine dioxide "kits" are not a solution for COVID-19 and are dangerous to drink. A number of websites and social media posts promote these products to combat coronavirus. For example, on her website, marketer Kerri Rivera touts Miracle Mineral Solution (MMS) as a "secret weapon" to fight coronavirus and keep illness from progressing. (She was banned in the state of Illinois in 2015 from making any earlier claim that MMS can cure autism.) Ingesting these products has not been shown to prevent or treat coronavirus.

These products typically contain sodium chlorite solution to be mixed with a citric acid, such as from lemon or lime juice, or another acid before drinking, or are sold with a citric acid "activator." However, adding acid to sodium chlorite produces chlorine dioxide, a bleaching agent. Sodium chlorite and chlorine dioxide are active ingredients in disinfectants and should not be swallowed, as they can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and symptoms of severe dehydration. Such reactions are not evidence that the product is "working," as claimed by some websites. In 2016, ABC's 20/20 detailed the case of a woman who died hours after drinking liquid Miracle Mineral Solution, which, the woman's husband believed, may have caused her death.

A strong warning from the FDA in 2019 advised that Miracle Mineral Solution consumers are "drinking bleach" and states: "If you're drinking "Miracle" or "Master" Mineral Solution or other sodium chlorite products, stop now."

Oleandrin

Oleandrin, a compound isolated from the oleander shrub, belongs to a group of chemicals known as cardiac glycosides. Oleandrin has been proposed for use in preventing or treating COVID-19 (Axios, August 16, 2020), but there is no published information showing oleandrin to be safe or effective for COVID-19 in people. Oleandrin has not been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use as a drug, and, on September 2, 2020, the FDA rejected a submission by Phoenix Biotechnology Inc. to market oleandrin as a dietary supplement due to safety concerns and the fact that oleandrin was already authorized for investigation as a new drug (FDA response letter, 2020).

The evidence to-date regarding oleandrin and COVID-19 is limited to laboratory research indicating that treating cells in test tubes with oleandrin before or after exposure to SARS-CoV-2 — the virus that causes COVID-19 — reduces virus production 78-fold to 800-fold (Plante, bioRxiv 2020). However, this research has not yet been peer-reviewed, and the Chief Science Officer and another paid consultant for Phoenix Biotechnology Inc. helped author the article. It is important to note that ingestion of oleander, the source of oleandrin, can be highly toxic. Deaths have been reported for people who consumed oleander, either accidentally or intentionally. The toxicity has been attributed to the oleandrin and other cardiac glycosides in oleander (Azzalini, J Forensic Leg Med 2019).

The bottom line on supplements for coronavirus:

Although several supplements may potentially reduce symptoms of a cold or flu, none can prevent infection with coronavirus or any other virus. Nevertheless, it is always worthwhile to fortify yourself to be in the best position to fight an infection. In addition to getting adequate sleep and general nutrition, the safest way to do this with supplements is to be sure you are getting sufficient vitamin C, vitamin D and zinc, as all are important for a well-functioning immune system. As described above, this can typically be done with foods and/or supplements (or, for vitamin D, adequate sun exposure if you're able to get out in the sun for extended periods each week).

You can also get good amounts of vitamins C and D, zinc, and other essential vitamins and minerals from a basic multivitamin. ConsumerLab has tested a wide variety of multivitamins and has published its Top Picks in its Multivitamin Supplements Review, which contains extensive information about the benefits and risks of multivitamins and how they compare on ingredients, quality, and price.

This answer is being continually updated with new information about supplements being used for coronavirus. You can be alerted of the latest updates and our product tests by receiving our free newsletter.

Best canned tuna and oats during lockdown:

If you're buying foods for a possible coronavirus lockdown, self-quarantine, or shelter-in-place, two recommended foods are canned fish and oats, as both are healthful and shelf-stable. ConsumerLab has tested both.

See our Top Picks for canned tuna and canned salmon for lowest mercury, highest beneficial omega-3 fatty acids, best taste, and lowest price.



Also see our Top Picks for oats (rolled, steel-cut, quick-cook, bran, O's, and baby cereal) based on our findings for gluten, heavy metals, and ochratoxin-A, and price. (Note: Concern has been raised about the herbicide glyphosate appearing in oats, however, the amounts found have been far below those that pose a safety risk.)

Although not an essential item, some people are stocking up on coconut water. If you are so inclined, see our Top Pick for coconut water. Coconut water is a fairly shelf-stable source of hydration -- as it is mostly water, along with some sugar and a good amount of potassium (about 300-500 mg per cup). But know that getting coronavirus from drinking water is not of concern according to the CDC, so it's not necessary to stock up on bottled water or coconut water -- which is much more expensive than water at around $1 per cup.

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70 Comments

Join the conversation

Peter20838
August 31, 2020

Some, including the doctors at the Eastern Virginia Medical School (Math+ protocol), recommend taking Quercetin plus Zinc together both as a prophylactic measure Against COVID-19, and also to stop virus replication once infected. Many also note that Quercetin is an ionophore of Zinc, which theoretically should help zinc penetrate the outer lipid layer of a virus and stop it from replicating.

Do you have an opinion about this?

ConsumerLab.com
August 31, 2020

There is some preliminary research to support this theory (https://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/jf5014633; https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fimmu.2020.01712/full); however, more research, including clinical trials, are needed to determine if there is really a benefit.

Jay20416
July 19, 2020

I am a new subscriber, and am very impressed by the amount of apparently unbiased information and data available, and also happy to see that you answer questions and comments. On the other hand, I was surprised to see you recommending vitamin D blood levels of 20 to 30 ng/mL, not to exceed 39 ng/mL. I recommend you get in touch with The Grassroots Health Nutrient Research Institute. Their primary focus is on Vitamin D, and represent an international panel of 48 of the top Vitamin D researchers in the world. (https://www.grassrootshealth.net/) Based on a hundreds of studies (available on their website) these scientists recommend maintaining vitamin D serum levels between 40 and 60 ng/mL. These scientists also explain why the RDA is off by a factor of 10, and have petitioned to have it corrected. However, that would require the National Academies and the FDA to acknowledge they made a mistake, making this very unlikely to happen despite the impact on people’s health.

ConsumerLab.com
July 20, 2020

As discussed in our Vitamin D Supplements Review ( https://www.consumerlab.com/reviews/vitamin-d-supplements-review/vitamin-d/#mcdonnell), the GrassrootsHealth study is not a scientifically valid study. We encourage you to read more about it.

Trebor20414
July 19, 2020

Andrographis?

ConsumerLab.com
July 20, 2020

There is some evidence that andrographis may help reduce symptoms of upper respiratory tract infections (colds) (https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20092985/), and some researchers have theorized, based on a computer modeling study, that it may inhibit an enzyme produced by SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19 (https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/07391102.2020.1760136). However, there does not appear to be any research investigating the effects of andrographis supplementation in people with COVID-19.

Trebor20427
July 20, 2020

Given the computer modeling study, one would think it would be worth looking into andrographis as a supplement that might reduce viral load or have a prophylactic quality. From what I read in Consumerlab, andrographis alone, or in combination with other substances, is often taken to prevent respiratory inflections in Nordic countries. I wonder if there have been any studies of Covid-19 infection rates in those countries.

Muriel20303
July 5, 2020

What about probiotics? https://www.thelancet.com/pdfs/journals/langas/PIIS2468-1253(20)30122-9.pdf

ConsumerLab.com
July 6, 2020

As noted in the "Probiotics" section our answer above, there is some very preliminary evidence that certain probiotics may have anti-viral effects, but there is no direct evidence to date that they may prevent or treat COVID-19. Similarly, the correspondence in The Lancet that you've shared notes "To date, the rationale for using probiotics in COVID-19 is derived from indirect evidence. Blind use of conventional probiotics for COVID-19 is not recommended until we have further understanding of the pathogenesis of SARS-CoV-2 and its effect on gut microbiota. " We will add information about results from a clinical trial using probiotics (discussed above) if they are published.

Muriel20296
July 5, 2020

Has anyone looked into Serrapeptase or other enzymes in the treatment of Covid? I think it might help with the clotting problem and possibly with inflammation.

ConsumerLab.com
July 7, 2020

We are not aware of any studies investigating serrapeptase for preventing or treating COVID-19. You can find more information about serrapeptase here https://www.consumerlab.com/answers/does-serrapeptase-work/serrapeptase/.

Karl20184
June 14, 2020

There are a few more studies you should add to your info on vitamin D & COVID-19, notably: Raharusun et al, “Patterns of COVID-19 mortality and vitamin D: An Indonesian study” SSRN, 2020, which is much larger than the observational studies you currently cite, n=780, includes fatality as the endpoint, and features a model controlling for age, sex, & comorbidities. And also Davies et al, "Evidence supports a causal model for vitamin D in COVID-19 outcomes" medRxiv, 2020, which builds a causal model that specifically counters the common correlation-is-no-causation criticism.

ConsumerLab.com
June 17, 2020

We have reviewed those studies but they have significant limitations/weaknesses. The study in Indonesia lacks basic information about the researchers’ credentials and affiliations and the second study is largely theoretical.

Robert20139
June 7, 2020

For several years I have been following Dr. Mercolas advise about which fish to consume. He has repeatedly advised his audience to eat either sardines, anchovies or wild Alaskan Salmon. In his opinion all others are polluted.

ConsumerLab.com
June 8, 2020

For tests of canned tuna and salmon, including tests for toxic heavy metals such as mercury and arsenic, see our Review of Canned Tuna and Salmon: https://www.consumerlab.com/reviews/canned-tuna-and-salmon-sardines-review/canned-tuna-and-salmon/.

Charlotte19733
April 29, 2020

In regards to Tea Tree oil, I use toothpicks made from "birch wood trees treated with Tea Tree oil". Should I be concerned?

ConsumerLab.com
April 29, 2020

Please see the Poison Control Center's advice on oral use of tea tree oil (linked to in the answer above).

Kathleen19721
April 28, 2020

Some elders and/or people feeling unwell with colds, flu or corona C19 experience digestive complaints either throat, tummy or intestinal. As I remember nutrition and dietary studies, a few foods are great soothers. Also good sources of trace minerals: white and yam potatoes, white or brown rice, bananas (or 1/2 or even 1/4 of a fruit, not too ripe), wholesome toast and crackers with not too much oil content. Cooking a good sized pot of rice, maybe half white, half brown, with a few beans added, along with some boiled veggies like zucchini or broccoli or yellow squash make a good meal. I add a multivitamin with minerals before the meal while I'm cooking, or some calcium supplement with vitamin D3, even a few raisins for the meal later in the day. Just a plain cup of tea smells great and feels good to me when under the weather or tired. My supplements aren't more than the daily allowance and I really have better digestion after I take the multi. Sometimes some elderberry juice or apple juice or fresh orange or limeade along with the meal. The meal can also be made into soup, either heavy or light, with the fruit eaten as a snack early or late in the day. Oral supplements really do feel like they improve my digestion.

Juely19707
April 26, 2020

Hi,

Silly question...Is it better to take the vitamins recommended or supplement- individually or can one just take "Top Pick Multi-vitamin" daily, that has all of the recommended vitamins in one pill? Sorry if the question is a little confusing. I'm just trying to figure out what's the best way to go. Buying individually or just buying a multivitamin - would it have the same effect?

Thanks in advance!

ConsumerLab.com
April 29, 2020

A multivitamin can be a good option if you are worried you are not getting adequate amounts of essential nutrients from your diet. Nutrient requirements can vary by age and gender, so it's important to choose a multivitamin that suits your needs. See our Top Picks for multivitamins for seniors, men, women (including prenatal vitamins), and children https://www.consumerlab.com/reviews/multivitamin-review-comparisons/multivitamins/#toppicks.

However, if you are deficient in a particular vitamin or mineral, such as vitamin D, calcium, or iron, it may be best (and more cost effective) to select a single ingredient supplement that will provide the dose that you need and that can be taken at a different time than other vitamins and minerals. For example, if you are deficient in iron, it's important to know that some multivitamins do not contain iron, or contain high doses of other minerals, such as calcium, that could reduce the absorption of iron (see https://www.consumerlab.com/reviews/iron-supplements-review/iron/#whattoavoid).

Also see https://www.consumerlab.com/answers/which-vitamins-and-minerals-should-be-taken-together-or-separately/how-to-take-vitamins/.

Stan19466
April 13, 2020

Your article states that "Tea tree oil is poisonous if swallowed. It should never be taken orally". However tea tree oil is an ingredient in a number of mouthwashes. Since a person will invariably ingest a bit of any mouthwash, Is this a potential problem?

ConsumerLab.com
April 15, 2020

Hi Stan - It does seem likely that a small amount of tea tree oil could be swallowed if using tea tree oil mouthwash. The National Capital Poison Center advises: "Tea tree oil should NOT be taken by mouth for any reason, even though some traditional uses include tea tree oil as a mouthwash, treatment for bad breath, and treatment of toothache and mouth ulcers." (https://www.poison.org/articles/2010-dec/tea-tree-oil).

Faren19581
April 20, 2020

I used it...it didn't do much; therefore I side with ConsumerLab's expertise on this one; Tea Tree oil doesn't seem to be able to render Covid19 ... CoronaVirus ...finished and useless!

Kathleen19719
April 28, 2020

I have a small bottle of tea tree oil that I occasionally put a drop of the oil on a Kleenex and leave it in the bathroom for a few minutes before disposing of the Kleenex. When I first got the bottle open it was so strong that I later realized that taking a pet bird into the room where the bottle was open caused nausea and vomiting in the pet. It was organic, but some of these oils are more concentrated than they would be from a cup of tea for instance that had a napkin soaked in it and used for cleansing. The oil we have in stores today is quite strong in my opinion, and I have refrained from using it on my person. There are some excellent cleansers for surfaces that are used in avian science. One we like is a Cleansing Gele made by OxyFresh. Safe for small animal cage cleaning, hands and sinks, it can be left on the surface cleansed for 4 minutes proved to make surfaces safe from viruses. If washed off well it cleanses bowls and water dishes, etc., making them safe from contamination. It can be left on the hands or body for a minute safely.

ConsumerLab.com
April 29, 2020

Thank you for sharing this. We've added safety information about essential oils use and pet birds in the answer above.

Karen19372
April 8, 2020

I am wondering about Oregano in the fight against COVID-19?

ConsumerLab.com
April 15, 2020

Hi Karen - We've added information about oregano oil in the Essential Oils section of the answer above.

Faren19594
April 20, 2020

...also didn't work! sorry; it did not work for me against Covif19; CoronaVirus

Diane19608
April 21, 2020

What is non emulsified oregano oil? My husband uses NOW oregano softgels daily, and I use Natural Factors drops when I start getting a sore throat or feeling under the weather, and it helps quite a bit, often stopping whatever was starting.

ConsumerLab.com
April 22, 2020

Hi Diane - Emulsified oil is one that has been broken down into smaller droplets, which can, potentially, improve it's absorption. Non-emulsified oil has not undergone this process.

Muriel20304
July 5, 2020

Hi Faren12594, Do you have long term impact from Covid? Did you try Serrapeptase Enzyme? or probiotics?

Laura19287
April 6, 2020

Are there any studies regarding Olive Leaf and corona viruses?

ConsumerLab.com
April 8, 2020

Hi Laura - We've added information about olive leaf extract in the answer above.

helen 19257
April 1, 2020

Wondering if you have any info on olive leaf extract as an antiviral and possibly helpful with the Corona Virus? Thanks for working hard to filter through available information to find what can most accurately be called "true".

ConsumerLab.com
April 20, 2020

Hi Helen - We've added information about olive leaf extract in the answer above.

Curt19238
March 29, 2020

Aren't bananas an excellent sources of Potassium?

ConsumerLab.com
March 30, 2020

Hi Curt - Yes, bananas are also a good source of potassium and many other foods, like kidney beans, are even richer in potassium. See the ConsumerTips section of the Potassium Supplements Review for more about getting potassium from foods: https://www.consumerlab.com/reviews/potassium-supplements-review/potassium/#food.

Morrill19228
March 25, 2020

Quoting from the article you linked when you said that melatonin has NOT been shown to decrease with increasing age in healthy individuals:
"With some exceptions [304,305], the age-associated decline of melatonin has been repeatedly reported [306–311] and usually overlaps with age-related impairment of the immune system."
"Based on the experimental data that have been accumulated and considering its lack of toxicity [321], high lipophilicity and great capacity to prevent cell damage [167], melatonin is one of the most attractive agents that has been investigated in relation to age-associated deterioration of the immune system and should be considered as a potential agent to improve quality of life in a rapidly aging population."

The article doesn't directly address the question of whether or not melatonin levels diminish with age in healthy individuals, if fact, it seems to indirectly disagree with your statement. You might think that "age-related impairment of the immune system" is not "healthy" or "normal" aging, but to support that argument you would need literature that demonstrates a "healthy" aging population whose immune systems are virtually as strong in advanced age as they were in youth. I haven't seen such a study.

Perhaps this is just a semantic issue: the definition of "normal" or "healthy" aging. Most, if not all of us, are at increased risk for most diseases as we age. I would suggest that this represents "normal" aging and perhaps even "healthy" aging by current standards. If there are individuals who somehow buck this trend and maintain youthful immune systems and youthful melatonin levels into their 80s and 90s, that's valuable and exciting data, but I would NOT use such outliers as the healthy norm when discussing melatonin with the aging public.

ConsumerLab.com
March 25, 2020

If you read the referenced articles you will see that there is a study that provides exactly the evidence you are asking about -- showing that healthy seniors had essentially the same melatonin levels as healthy young men. See the study reported at at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10569297.

JENNIFER19227
March 25, 2020

I don't understand your bias against Vitamin C. There ARE reports of Vitamin C significantly improving patients in China. And now they are treating patients in New York Hospitals. Why aren't you reporting this?

ConsumerLab.com
March 25, 2020

We have no bias against vitamin C. The study in China began March 14 and results have not yet been reported. So we don't know if it helps or not yet. Hopefully it will and we will be very happy to report that. It is true that high-dose vitamin C is being given in New York and probably elsewhere, but that doesn't mean it works. Many approaches are are being tried.

Brian19208
March 18, 2020

What about Echinacia Purpurea herb? Does it help immune system? Is it a problem with statin drugs like Atorvastatin?

ConsumerLab.com
March 30, 2020

Hi Brian - We've added information about echinacea to the answer above ( https://www.consumerlab.com/answers/do-natural-remedies-or-supplements-prevent-coronavirus/natural-remedies-coronavirus/#echinacea). You can find information about potential drug interactions with echinacea in the "Concerns and Cautions" section of the Echinacea Supplements Review ( https://www.consumerlab.com/reviews/echinacea-review/echinacea/#cyp).

Rajiv19206
March 18, 2020

The curcuminoids in turmeric seems to have anti-infective and anti-viral activity against several type of viruses from NCBI PMC article. There was also mention of how curcumin inhibits Respiratory Syncytial Virus. Could the be curcuminoids be effective against Covid-19 with a highly concentrated supplement that adds black pepper or bioperine to enhance bioavailability?

ConsumerLab.com
March 30, 2020

Hi Rajiv - We've added information about turmeric/curcumin in the answer above. Although turmeric/curcumin have anti-inflammatory effects and have been shown to have anti-viral activity in laboratory studies, there is are no studies in people showing they prevent or reduce symptoms of viral infections.

Brent19199
March 16, 2020

My doctor and nursing staff are all taking two brazil nuts a day or 200mcg of Selenium, stating recent studies that show having a sufficient selenium level can inhibit the viruses reproduction. They are also taking Vit. D, C,A and zinc.

ConsumerLab.com
March 17, 2020

Hi Brent - Yes, it is important to have adequate selenium, but, as we note, most people in the U.S. are not deficient in it. Deficiency is more common in other countries, such as China. 200 mcg is overkill, although not necessarily unsafe. The daily requirement is about 1/4 of that, and most people already get it. More about selenium supplements and the foods that provide selenium is found in our Selenium Supplements Review at https://www.consumerlab.com/reviews/selenium-supplements-review-ratings/selenium/.

Karl19171
March 11, 2020

AHCC?

ConsumerLab.com
March 21, 2020

AHCC (made from fungal mycelia) appears to have immunostimulatory properties, but we are not aware of any studies showing that it helps prevent or treat coronavirus.

Karl19211
March 21, 2020

Speculative but scientific published article:
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/32162896
Minerva Gastroenterol Dietol. 2020 Mar 12 doi: 10.23736/S1121-421X.20.02697-5
Possible therapeutic role of a highly standardized mixture of active compounds derived from cultured Lentinula edodes mycelia (AHCC) in patients infected with 2019 novel coronavirus

ConsumerLab.com
March 21, 2020

Yes, this is just a speculative paper (not based on a testing) from people in industry.

Donna19157
March 11, 2020

Thank you. re: zinc and elderly people -- poor absorption, poor intake and interference by prescription medications is a huge and chronic problem, not just a problem for Covid19. No one seems interested in researching this. Rather the standard belief is that elderly people just have poor immune function because they're old, not because of poor absorption, poor intake and interference by the multiple medications elderly people commonly take.

Manuel19169
March 11, 2020

Excellent points

susan19225
March 25, 2020

just an observation about zinc and elderly. my almost 90 year old mother has alzheimer's and bed sores. once we got her to wound care we were advised to put her on vitamins, including ionic zinc. i was rather dismayed that in10 years neither of her primary care docs (one at kaiser and one at stanford both specialize in geriatrics) suggested we put her on any vitamin supplements, and that it took until what amounts to end of life care to get that advice. she now takes a liquid multi vitamin with additional zinc and c. her bed sores are much improved - and i'm sure the supplements helped (along with really good wound care that could have started months earlier had we been properly advised, sigh)

Anna19285
April 6, 2020

Good comment. I seems very logical

TOM19465
April 13, 2020

Zinc (dose and form not stated) has been used by some M.D.'s in combination with hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin (Zithromax), but its clinical value (or lack thereof) has not been adequately studied. ConsumerLab's Zinc discussion mentions that zinc can interact with antibiotics; however it does not interact with macrolide antibiotics, of which azithromycin is one. Aside: It seems that azithromycin is added when there is evidence/suspicion of bacterial infection, e.g., pneumonia; it is not effective against viruses - only bacteria. Other antibiotics can also be used to treat concomitant bacterial infection, e.g., if someone is truly allergic to macrolides - rare, but possible. (I have a PharmD degree.)

susan may19704
April 26, 2020

It might be helpful to know a bit more about azithromycin (Zithromax) and pneumonia -- and that one size does not fit all.

Last year I was prescribed Z-PAC (a 3-day treatment) twice, one prescription followed by another. It had no effect of my medical situation. Shortly after finishing the 2nd prescription I was sent for a chest x-ray and was diagnosed with pneumonia.

The analysis of the sputum identified the bacteria -- and the antibiotics which have been shown to be effective with those bacteria. Z-PAC was NOT effective with the bacteria I had.

Muriel20295
July 5, 2020

Can you tell me which vitamins your mother takes (which brand)? Thanks

JR19151
March 9, 2020

It would be very interesting to see an analysis of the vitamin D blood levels of those who have survived a bout of covid-19 infection as compared to those who have succumbed.

Kathleen19720
April 28, 2020

Hi there, I agree! Since it seems that midday sun is good for Vitamin D absorption this time of year, I have combined my multivitamin with my daily socially distanced shop and walk. I take about 1000 units (IU) of D3 divided into 2 doses, part 1) in a multivitamin I like at noon, and 2) another 500 IU with 250 mg of calcium, some Boron, vitamin K and magnesium either at brunch or at dinner in a "bone building" formula. A few times a week I go shopping at a market or farmer's market and I also walk for about 35 min a day for exercise in the sun. It really invigorates me, and I feel like the UVB cleanses my hair and even the grocery bags and mask I wear now before or after shopping. I'm 70 but my D3 levels and bones and all, probably immune function too, are all working well, or well enough. I feel like I sleep great and even though we have stay at home restrictions, the daylight I get during diurnal hours help keep me oriented to a good bedtime and regular deep sleep after dark.

Glen19149
March 9, 2020

https://www.longdom.org/open-access/d-llysine-acetylsalicylate--glycine-impairs-coronavirus-replication-jaa-1000151.pdf

ConsumerLab.com
April 8, 2020

Hi Glen - The compound used in this study is essentially aspirin, combined with small amounts of lysine and glycine. Please see the COVID-19 section of the Lysine Supplements Review for more about this: https://www.consumerlab.com/reviews/lysine-review-comparisons/lysine/#immune.

Carol19147
March 8, 2020

THANK YOU for mentioning the danger of MMS. It greatly pains me to see this being promoted some places because it would likely do much more harm than good. It is essentially like taking chemo, which has never been indicated for use with infectious disease as far as I know. The HIV field considered chemo at some point, but abandoned it due to high toxicity to healthy cells. MMS would only cause oxidative stress, which is the precise means by which pathogenic viruses cause harm. Viruses like SARS, MERS and ebola trigger the host's immune system to mount a hyper- inflammatory OVERreaction called a cytokine storm, at the expense of healthy tissue. The host's own cytokine storm causes tissue and organ damage. To quell some of the inflammation, anti-oxidants are in order, not oxidants. Therefore it is great that you mentioned cysteine (e.g. NAC), which is an important ("rate-limiting") precursor to the master antioxidant Glutathione, which is believed to figure prominently in immune function: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11115795. Garlic and other foods with sulfur content (onions, eggs, brassica vegetables) also build glutathione. Vitamin C and zinc, along with E, selenium and B vitamins, are glutathione co-factors so their place on your list are also well-deserved. Thanks for your article.

Carla 19145
March 8, 2020

In the news about Covid-19, I thought I read that a chief cause of fatal complications of this virus in the immune system "going into overdrive," setting off a cytokine storm, etc. Is there a danger that supplements that boost the immune system could exacerbate this problem, especially for people with autoimmune conditions?

ConsumerLab.com
March 10, 2020

While much more research is certainly needed to answer your question, the basic approaches that our answer favors (such as maintaining an adequate level of vitamin D) are intended to make sure that one's immune system is functioning properly and is not weakened due to deficiency.

Margaret 19576
April 20, 2020

What is an adequate amount of Vitamin D for a 74 yo female?

ConsumerLab.com
April 20, 2020

Hi Margaret - You can quickly look up the vitamin D requirements here -- https://www.consumerlab.com/rdas///vitamin-d/#rdatable.

Bradley19134
March 8, 2020

Thank you for posting this very timely article! I sincerely appreciate you researching this for your subscribers. Best wishes to all, and stay safe!

Tracey19617
April 22, 2020

East Virginia Medical School is suggesting this for prophylaxis use:

While there is very limited data (and none specific for COVID-19), the following “cocktail” may have a role in the prevention/mitigation of COVID-19 disease. While there is no high level evidence that this cocktail is effective; it is cheap, safe and widely available.

• Vitamin C 500 mg BID and Quercetin 250-500 mg BID
• Zinc 75-100 mg/day (acetate, gluconate or picolinate). Zinc lozenges are preferred. After 1-2
months, reduce the dose to 30-50 mg/day.
• Melatonin (slow release): Begin with 0.3mg and increase as tolerated to 1-2 mg at night
• Vitamin D3 1000-4000 u/day (optimal dose unknown).

ConsumerLab.com
April 23, 2020

As the group in East Virginia that published that proposal notes, there is no evidence that this approach works. But, as we discuss in our CL Answer above, some elements of this could be helpful, such as vitamin D if you are deficient and boosting vitamin C (although 500 mg just once a day, rather than twice, is plenty and several times the RDA). The zinc recommendation would only apply to zinc lozenges, as there is no reason to supplement with that much zinc -- and if one plans on taking zinc it for many weeks, copper supplementation should also be taken as zinc suppresses copper absorption, which could weaken the immune system. If you choose to take quercetin, be aware that it can interact with lipid-lowering "statin" drugs, as we have noted.

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